One of the new plants I’ve been growing in may garden has been calendula! It’s only just started to bloom, and I can’t tell you how excited I was to see the first flower on my little calendula plant!
I’ve used calendula in the past to make calendula oil, shortbread, and calendula cream, but that was from store-bought, pre-dried calendula petals. I haven’t yet used calendula that I’ve grown, harvested, then dried in recipes or DIY products, so I couldn’t wait to get started!
It’s such a money saver to grow and dry your own calendula, as the petals (especially good quality and organic) can be fairly pricey. What’s more, they are just beautiful to have growing in your garden, and come in many shades of orange and yellow! They’re beautiful to have sitting on your countertop (you can use an old stainless steel water bottle as the vase 😉 ), or even gift some of the oil you can make with these flowers, it comes with many healing properties, and is wonderful to use in recipes!
I’ve made lavender oil in the past using fresh lavender from my garden, harvesting, drying out, then infusing into an oil, and it’s just worked brilliantly! So, next on the list was calendula! You can also make tinctures, teas, creams, poultices, salves/balms, and other things with herbs & flowers from your garden too, so feel free to research and see what you can use your calendula in to make a whole range of healthful goodies!
Before we get started in learning how to dry calendula flowers – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my email newsletter at the bottom of the page to keep up to date on the latest recipes, DIYs, gardening and health tips I share!!
If you make a recipe using your dried calendula flowers, please share! Leave a comment below, and if you take a picture and share it, please tag me on Instagram @simplynaturalnessa or use the hashtag #simplynaturalnessa so I can see! I’d love to hear how it went!
How to dry calendula flowers
Step 1: First, you want to begin by harvesting the calendula flowers. The best time to harvest calendula flowers is in the morning, after the dew has dried. They’re fresh, opening to the sun, and don’t have wet petals. Note: It’s important to harvest the blossoms when they’re half-open, as, soon after this point, they begin to open more and more, and move past their prime medicinal time, and the petals begin to wither.
To harvest, gently snip off the flower head at the top of the stalk using scissors (use your fingers to pinch the stem while you snip – be careful of your hands). Alternatively, you can also pull out the entire plant from your garden and use the leaves in your recipes as well, as they contain much of the same medicinal qualities as the flowers. I prefer to keep the plant in my garden, as it’s much easier to continually harvest flower blooms from the plant throughout the season. Note: It’s a good idea to trim back the stem that remains on the plant once you’ve collected the flower, so that the stem doesn’t start to rot.
Seed saving: Something to keep in mind; if you don’t harvest the heads, they’ll die back on their own, and go to seed fast (and you may find next summer there are many, MANY more calendula flowers growing around your garden – they tend to multiply if left to seed by themselves). However, this is a good time to collect the seeds up for when you want to plant them again! To do this, monitor the flowers carefully and collect the ripe seeds when they’ve turned brown, not green (they’ll still contain moisture in them and will go mouldy when stored over time). Pop seeds into a brown paper bag, write the date and what seeds are inside on the bag, then voila! You have calendula seeds all ready to go for when you want to plant them! To store, hang the brown paper bag somewhere out of the way, preferably in a dark, dry place at room temperature.
Step 2: Next, you want to dry the flowers (or in particular, the petals). There are many ways to do this, but the basic principle is to provide good airflow/circulation as well as protect the petals from getting too much sun ( so if drying outdoors, keep in a shady area). Note: Do not wash the flower heads. Spread them out on a ventilated surface: cheesecloth, screen, or a mesh of some kind. You can even build drying screens from light timber with a screen tied between ― simply make a frame and staple the screen to it (you can even make multiple screen layers to create more space to dry the petals – just make the frame taller).
Another option is to use an dehydrator. This is good if it’s cold where you live, or you want to dry the petals more quickly. I often use this method when drying herbs/flowers, as it means you can dry the them indoors. Dehydrate flowers at a temperature of around 32°C-35°C (90°F-95°F). You don’t want to expose these delicate flowers to too much direct heat, as it can reduce a lot of their health properties.
To dry: Spread the heads (or just the petals and compost the heads) out face down on a dishtowel, cheesecloth, sheet, screen, newspaper, old window screen stretched between two chairs, or mesh of some kind (make sure it’s clean) – if using just the petals, it doesn’t matter which way up they’re facing. If you have a dehydrator you can use that, too. Again, it’s important to not subject the calendula to high heat, so oven drying is not recommended. Set your dehydrator to approx. 32°C-35°C (90°F-95°F). If you’re air drying the flowers/petals, turn them over every so often, and make sure to keep them out of direct sunlight. They’ll shrink quite a bit as they dry, and the moisture evaporates.
Step 3: Once finished drying, they’re ready to store. It’s very important to wait until they’re completely dry. If not fully dry, they’ll go mouldy when stored and become unusable. So – the flowers must be dry. To tell whether they’re finished, look out for these signs:
- They should be fragile, crispy and very dry, like crepe paper. You’ll notice that when they’re not quite dry they’ll look dry, but when you go to touch them they’ll feel a bit cool compared to a truly dry flower (a.k.a you can feel the moisture in them). Leave for a little longer, or until completely dry.
Note: The green part, the flower head that the petals are attached to, dries much slower than the petals due to it’s bigger size and mass. So, if you’re going to store the heads whole, then allow extra time for the green parts to dry too (or again, you’ll get mould in your dried calendula batch).
To store: You can store the calendula flowers whole with the green flower head, or pull the petals out and compost the heads. Store the dried calendula in glass jars with airtight seals in a dark cupboard (or somewhere out of the light). Some choose to keep their dried herbs/flowers in paper bags –as bags breathe a bit, so may help to lessen the chance of mould. However, if your flowers are completely dry, mould shouldn’t grow. Label and date all your herbs/flowers, then they’re ready for use in whatever recipes or DIY’s you’d like to make!
Have you made calendula oil or other recipes with calendula before? Share your experience below! How did it go?? We love hearing your stories!
Lots of love,
Arcuri, Lauren. (Updated: September 17, 2020). How to Harvest and Dry Calendula. The Spruce. Retrieved from https://www.thespruce.com/harvest-and-dry-calendula-3016611
Mrs. Homegrown. (March 15, 2011). Harvesting and Drying Calendula. Root Simple. Retrieved from https://www.rootsimple.com/2011/03/harvesting-and-drying-calendula/